Spirit of Baltimore passengers sue after Coast Guard finds captain dozed before crash

Nearly 30 passengers are suing Spirit Cruises LLC after a company ship crashed into a Fells Point pier last August during a midnight party ride.

Maurice and Tonya Franklin of Baltimore County are suing for $1 million. The force of the crash aboard the Spirit of Baltimore cruise ship threw Maurice Franklin into a glass wall and rocked his wife from her seat, their attorneys wrote in a federal court lawsuit. Other passengers suffered injuries to their necks, backs and knees, according to court records.

Coast Guard investigators said the captain dozed off before the 119-foot vessel veered off course and splintered a floating pier at Henderson’s Wharf Marina.

“I immediately started to panic as I didn’t know if the ship had been damaged and was going to sink,” Felicia Morris, a passenger from Virginia, wrote in her lawsuit. “I couldn’t swim and there were no life vests in sight nor were any handed out by staff or crew. We found out later that the captain had fallen asleep which is no excuse to put that many lives in danger.”

Twenty-eight people have filed claims, ranging from $5,000 to $1 million, against Spirit Cruises before a deadline last month set by U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander.

Under U.S. maritime law, a company may request the courts set a deadline for people to bring claims and to limit the total payout to the value of the ship. Hollander set a deadline of Feb. 15 and a limit of $1.8 million.

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